USA suing Google in biggest antitrust case in decades

Ruben Fields
October 20, 2020

"The bigger point is that people don't use Google because they have to, they use it because they choose to", Google writes.

Google will likely issue a similar statement as it challenges the case in a court battle that analysts expect will last years. Following years of investigations, the DOJ has filed an antitrust case against the search giant, revolving around the way Google keeps us using its search and advertising services.

Consumers who prefer an alternative are able to switch the default search tool on iPhones and other devices, he said.

Justice Department lawyers accuse Google of illegally using its monopoly power to stifle competition and hurt consumers through exclusionary agreements, including deals like the one it struck with Apple making Google the default search engine on the Safari browser on iPhones. The 64-page lawsuit says that Google's actions have harmed competitors and consumers. There was some doubt in the markets that Washington lawmakers will actually come together and take action, according to Neil Campling, head of tech media and telecom research at Mirabaud Securities in London. "Many of the world's most popular apps aren't preloaded-think of Spotify, Instagram, Snapchat, Amazon and Facebook".

The prospect of the lawsuit has been around for quite some time, with repeated reports the Department of Justice was planning some form of legal action against Google. In 2018, the European Union fined Google $5 billion for striking the deals, which prompted the tech giant to revamp its app bundling approach.

DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg commented on Twitter that the privacy-focused search company is "pleased the DOJ has taken this key step in holding Google accountable for the ways it has blocked competition, locked people into using its products, and achieved a market position so dominant they refuse to even talk about it out loud". It seeks "structural relief", aka a breakup of the company, among other remedies to prevent Google from engaging in what the government deems its anticompetitive behavior. It would be litigated cooperatively, "much as we did in the Microsoft case".

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What is the Justice Department saying Google did illegally?

With this vast, unparalleled reach, Google further enriched itself through lucrative ads that appear alongside search results, the DOJ found. "Today, when a mom does a search for a pediatrician on Google, instead of being matched with the best information from across the web, she is unwittingly steered to Google's "house" product which has objectively lower quality information", Yelp writes in a blog post.

Google, whose search engine is so ubiquitous that its name has become a verb, had revenue of $162 billion (€137 billion) in 2019, more than the nation of Hungary.

Court records indicate that 11 states will join the federal government in the lawsuit.

Shares of Google's mother company Alphabet rose almost 1 percent after news the government lawsuit was imminent. While Google was investigated for anti-trust violations by the Federal Trade Commission, that case was closed in 2013.

"This is nothing more than a thinly veiled political stunt", says Public Citizen's Policy Advocate Alex Harman in a statement.

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